Written for Sharon, because she asked me to try crack pairing with Ohtori.



Moving On
by Cheeseburger of Doom


Ohtori Choutarou had indulged in the occasional daydream in his youth. Sometimes he'd imagined himself as a professional tennis player, sometimes he'd imagined himself as a doctor, or a lawyer; when he was very young he'd even imagined himself as a rock star.

He had never in any of those daydreams imagined himself sitting in a random bar, drinking his sorrows away. He had never particularly liked alcohol, but these days, it was his best friend.

He had loved his job; he had loved every odd job he'd had to take on, loved it simply because it provided him with the money to support himself. He'd loved every job that he'd been fired from within a few days -- because he so often showed up late, or not at all.

Ohtori had become very bitter somewhere along the line. There didn't seem to be anything worth giving a damn about -- not anymore.

--

Everyone seemed to think that since he and Shishido were doubles partners that they were not just doubles partners.

It had started in junior high; the whispers and the rumors. It really hadn't bothered Ohtori. He could take people talking about him behind his back -- what did they know, anyway? Their opinions didn't matter.

Then Shishido had gone off to high school, and he'd spent a year of listening to more rumors. When it was his turn to go to high school, and he approached Shishido with a smile on his face, ready to pick up where they left off --

He got a slap in the face.

"I don't want people to start talking about us like they used to," Shishido said. "Not again. It was driving me crazy. You're a good friend, but I don't think it's worth it. You understand, right?"

Ohtori had stood there for a full five minutes, opening and closing his mouth like some kind of fish -- and then he'd punched his sempai right on the nose.

No, he didn't understand; he didn't understand it at all. Why should they let what other people said about them matter? They were friends, and that was all that should have mattered.

Never mind that Ohtori had been hoping all along that their friendship could turn into something more; never mind that the rumors about him had come too close to the truth, sometimes. None of that was relevant -- they were friends, damn it, and friends were supposed to stick together!

Ohtori could understand homophobia, even if he didn't like it, and he could understand Shishido being uncomfortable with Ohtori's true feelings. Ohtori couldn't understand Shishido putting that much faith into whispered rumors, and couldn't understand him caring that much about his image.

Not wanting to be around someone you knew was gay was one thing -- not wanting to be around someone because other people would think you were gay was a different story altogether.

Maybe it would be better this way. If Shishido had such a problem with it, then it was better that he never found out the half-hopes that Ohtori had built up; better that he never knew the true nature of the "nice kid who was a good friend".

Maybe it was better that they part with a punch on the nose and a few curses.

--

He never did speak to Shishido again after that. He saw him, sometimes; at first, he tried to catch Shishido's eye, so he could at least apologize --

Shishido would never meet his gaze.

It took Ohtori a long time to get over him -- in fact, he never really did. Long after he stopped being in love with Shishido, he was still angry with him; he was also angry with himself for ever bothering to fall in love.

He dated, a little. It was more like a series of one night stands, actually, and while that was satisfying in its own way -- he was also very lonely. His pessimism grew.

It became harder and harder for Ohtori to hang on to friends. They didn't like being around someone who was that gloomy -- when had he become that gloomy? It certainly hadn't been a conscious effort. Things just didn't seem all that great anymore. He often found himself wondering "What's the point?", and the answer always seemed to be, "there isn't one."

--

Ohtori's parents had a big problem with homosexuality, and he could not exactly share with them his secret. He wanted their acceptance, and he had it -- but only if he kept on lying to them.

Ohtori had friends who wouldn't have cared what he was, but he was afraid to share with them his secret lest his parents find out.

The people he shared the truth with were people he spent a few nights with at the most -- and they always seemed to disappear after they got what they wanted -- because he always told them that he didn't want anything more. He did, but he was afraid of being hurt again.

Ohtori had fallen in love with a certain sempai, but that had ended in disaster, even before he could tell the truth.

Ohtori started losing his friends because they couldn't handle his pessimistic attitude.

He was beginning to think that he would always be alone in his own little world, and that nothing in the real world would never be anything but backwards and full of lies.

--

Ohtori's college years were spend rather miserably. He did very well -- but when it was all over, he asked himself once more, "What's the point?" He had no drive to go out and find a good job -- he needed something to support himself, but as long as he could eat, why bother working very hard?

--

"You shouldn't be drinking that much."

Ohtori was startled to realize that the gentle voice was directed at him. He gave the owner of that voice his best angry glare -- which still needed some work. He looked like an angry puppy.

"Don't you have something better to do than bother me?" he asked. He wondered why the man kept his eyes closed -- wasn't it hard to see like that?

"I'm sorry," the man replied, "You just seem a bit drunk."

"Don't worry about me," Ohtori said. "Nobody else does." To his embarrassment, he felt tears in his eyes. Well, damn, he must be drunk after all --

"Hey, buy me another!" demanded the man-who-had-bothered-Ohtori's drinking partner.

"You've had enough, Masaharu."

"We came here to drink! I want to drink!"

"I think it's time to go home." The man sighed. "I should know better than to take him out when he asks."

"Is that your boyfriend?" Ohtori asked. Yes, definitely drunk -- when he was sober, he tried to refrain from asking stupid questions.

"Actually, he belongs to a friend of mine who asked me to look after him for a while."

"Babysitting?"

"Something like that."

"Good luck. He seems like a handful."

"He is. Stop drinking." The man gently persuaded (dragged) his companion out of the bar.

Ohtori ordered another drink, just to prove to the guy he could take it -- and then instead of drinking it, he decided to go home.

Something about the way the guy had said it made him want to listen, instead of being stubborn. Something about the tone of the guy's voice had made him want to go back to being what he was years ago.

--

Ohtori found himself returning to the club where he'd met the man-with-closed eyes, to try and catch a glimpse of that person.

Since being told not to drink anymore, he really hadn't touched the stuff; the bartender was becoming a little annoyed with his polite requests for water.

He didn't encounter the man again until three weeks later. He had finally managed to hold down one of his odd jobs; and a job at which he could actually use the credentials he'd acquired in school. It was nice to be able to actually pay the rent for a change, and nice also to have money to spend instead of wasting it on booze.

When he met the man again, he was with the same person he had been on the first night -- Masaharu, he'd called him. There was also someone else with them; someone who had a possessive look about him, and was clearly the one to whom this Masaharu "belonged".

Ohtori wasn't quite sure of wanted to say, but he went over to their table anyway. He wanted to say thank you, at least -- No, it was too embarrassing. He was about to walk back in the other direction when he was spotted.

"Hey, it's that guy you were bothering last time, Renji! He's pretty cute, now that I can see straight."

"You'll have to forgive Masaharu," the one called 'Renji' sighed. "He has no tact."

"Hey!"

"Won't you join us?"

Ohtori sat down, awkwardly. "Actually, I just wanted to thank you for last time. You knocked some sense back into me."

"I'm glad."

"I'm Ohtori Choutarou."

"Yanagi Renji. This is Yagyuu Hiroshi, and Niou Masaharu. They are two friends of mine from my school days."

"It must be nice to have kept in touch with them." There was always so much to be bitter about -- he hadn't been able to keep up with the one person from school that he had really wanted to.

"Well, at times it seems like a good thing," Yanagi said, "However, at other times it seems like a huge nuisance."

"Renji, don't be an ass. You know you love me," Niou said. "Come dance with me, Ohtori Choutarou."

"But I don't --"

Ohtori found himself being dragged onto the dance floor anyway; then he found himself grinding in the dirtiest dancing he'd ever done.

Wait a second, was Niou actually nibbling on his ear?

"Relax," Niou said. "I'm not going to fuck you on the dance floor or anything. I just like making Hiroshi jealous. It's very sexy."

"Um?"

"Just relax. You'll thank me later."

Ohtori really couldn't deny that he was enjoying himself. It had been a while since the last time he'd -- well. It was nice to be this close to another guy, anyway.

"So, tell me, why were you getting drunk the other night? It's none of my business, but I like asking questions."

"I was depressed."

"Lost love?"

"Something like that." He'd lost his love years ago, but it refused to leave him.

"You wear a cross. You catholic?"

"Not really." The cross was just for good luck -- he'd never been able to follow the religion, much as his parents had wanted him to. He was gay, he couldn't help it. He didn't want to devote himself to a religion if he had to lie to himself. There had always been too many lies.

"Good. You gay?"

"What?"

"Was that too personal?"

"People don't usually ask me that right away."

Niou laughed. "You're not exactly telling me to get off you. That gave me a clue."

"I --" Whatever Ohtori was about to say next was cut off by Niou sticking his tongue down Ohtori's throat. The kiss didn't last long, because Yagyuu approached. He had no particular expression on his face, but Ohtori had the feeling that he was quite angry. He was also feeling a little nervous.

"I'm cutting in," Yagyuu said to Ohtori -- and Ohtori made a quick retreat.

"Like I said, you'll have to forgive Masaharu," Yanagi said. "He's something else."

"Why does he do that?"

"He likes it when Hiroshi gets angry. Don't ask me why, I have my suspicions and I don't want to think about them."

Ohtori couldn't resist laughing at the pained face that Yanagi was making. He hadn't really laughed in a while.

"When you said that I'd knocked some sense back into you, does that mean you've stopped drinking so much?" Yanagi asked.

"Yes. Although I don't know why you wasted your breath on me, anyway."

"Well, I think Masaharu said it best."

"What?"

"You are cute, after all."

Ohtori didn't know quite what to say to that. He struggled with words until Yanagi started to laugh at him.

"Would you like to go for dinner with me?" he asked.

"Dinner?"

"The third meal of the day."

"I know, but -- wouldn't that be --"

"A date? I think so. Well?"

"Okay." What was the harm in going on a date, anyway? It didn't mean that he had to fall in love and get hurt -- it didn't mean that it would end with a punch in the nose and a few curses. Maybe if he didn't say anything this time, it wouldn't end after two nights. Maybe it would never amount to anything.

It wouldn't hurt to try -- would it?

Ohtori gave Yanagi his phone number. Part of him felt that it was a bad idea, but for some reason, he couldn't resist.

Niou and Yagyuu chose that moment to return to their seats, looking very pleased with themselves. Yanagi did not bring up the subject again until Ohtori announced that he had to go home; and then he simply said "I'll call you."

--

Ohtori told himself quite firmly that he would not sit by the phone and wait. He did not really expect that Yanagi would call him, anyway.

Every time the phone rang, he jumped to answer it; every time it was not Yanagi, he was disappointed. He told himself that he shouldn't be, but he was; he couldn't help it.

When it finally was Yanagi, he told himself to be calm.

"I'm sorry it took so long to call," he said. "I hope you didn't think I'd given up on you."

That was exactly what Ohtori had thought, but he didn't say so. In fact, he couldn't say anything at all, because his voice refused to work.

"Where would you like to go for dinner?" The silence stretched on. "Have you changed your mind?"

That helped Ohtori find his voice. "No, I haven't changed my mind, sorry. Anywhere is fine."

"Saturday night?"

"Yes."

"Any preference?"

"No."

The conversation continued along those lines; Yanagi asked questions and Ohtori gave one word answers. Eventually they managed to set a time and place.

When Ohtori hung up the phone, he breathed a sigh of relief, glad that it was over; only to have his nervousness return when he realized that the ordeal hadn't even begun.

This would probably end like any other "date" he'd ever been on -- in a hotel, only to wake up alone the next morning.

For some reason, though, that wasn't really what he wanted, this time. He was tired of living life that way.

--

"You're very quiet."

Ohtori was startled out of his thoughts, and was embarrassed to realize that he'd been ignoring Yanagi for the past few minutes.

"I'm sorry," he said. "It's just that I really didn't expect you to call me."

"I said I would."

"I know." It was hard for Ohtori to trust anyone these days. Life was so pathetic...At least he had a better job, now. His new coworkers also seemed to like him well enough, so long as he tried to smile and say "Good morning".

"Why don't you tell me about this lost love of yours that made you so bitter," Yanagi said.

"What? How did you know?"

"Masaharu told me about your conversation on the dance floor."

"I don't want to talk about that."

"Sorry, I shouldn't have asked."

The awkward silence that filled the air was enough to drive a person mad. Ohtori wondered why he was even here, why he was even bothering --

"Are you not enjoying your dinner?"

Ohtori realized that he was only picking at his food. He really needed to shake off the haze that was surrounding him. "Oh no, I like it."

"You shouldn't have forced yourself to come here if you didn't want to."

Was Yanagi angry? It was hard to tell. Ohtori suddenly felt like a big jerk for being so rude. Yanagi had been nothing but pleasant to him; he really should be making more of an effort. "I really do want to be here," he said. "I'm sorry if it seems like I don't."

"You just seem very uncomfortable. Am I that intimidating?"

Ohtori had to laugh. "No, not really."

"Then relax. It's only dinner, after all."

That was true enough. It was only dinner; Ohtori wouldn't lose anything of himself simply by eating and talking. Yanagi smiled at him, and he felt better; after that, he realized that he really enjoyed Yanagi's company very much. They had a lovely dinner, and that night Ohtori fell asleep with a smile on his face; in his own bed and alone, but it seemed better that way, for now.

--

Yanagi and Ohtori went on many dates after that. They went to movies, they went to play pool (sometimes with Niou and Yagyuu in tow) they went out for coffee...Ohtori enjoyed all of it very much. He'd never actually dated like that, before; it was usually just dinner, if anything at all. He'd never really committed himself, because he'd been afraid to.

They dated for two weeks before they even kissed; and after that, there was a good deal of kissing, but nothing more.

That was fine with Ohtori. This was what he had wanted for a long time; he just hadn't admitted it to himself. He was still afraid of losing, but it was so nice to be with someone who actually seemed to give a damn.

He couldn't fall in love with Yanagi, though. More like he wouldn't -- that fear of losing prevented it. He didn't want to lose any of himself, not again. He was happy now; he didn't want to have his heart broken and go back to being bitter and drunk.

He was quite certain that if he did, there wouldn't be another Yanagi to tell him to stop drinking.

--

Ohtori saw Niou fairly often, since he was one of Yanagi's closest friends. They went on double dates of sorts with Niou and Yagyuu; those occasions were always pleasant, but somewhat strange. Niou and Yagyuu had a weird relationship that Ohtori couldn't even begin to understand.

And Niou hit on him. A little too often, really. At first, it didn't really bother him; he remembered what Niou had said about liking it when Yagyuu got jealous. However, when it persisted, it began to bother him; especially when Yanagi was watching.

Exactly six months after Ohtori had met Yanagi, the four of them were at a night club. Yanagi and Ohtori did not usually go to clubs, themselves, but Niou had demanded that Yanagi and Ohtori be in attendance, given that it was his birthday.

"Why don't you have a drink, Choutarou?" Niou suggested.

"No, I'm fine." Ohtori hadn't had anything alcoholic since he'd met Yanagi. He didn't want to go back to drinking away his sorrows. He was afraid that one drink would lead to another.

"It's my birthday!"

"Masaharu. If he doesn't want to drink, then he won't drink," Yanagi said.

"It's only one drink. It won't kill him." Niou passed something Ohtori's way. Ohtori really didn't want to be rude, so he sipped on it, even though he would have preferred not to. He noticed the smug look that Niou gave Yanagi, and wondered what was going on between those two, lately. They didn't seem to be getting along very well.

"Hiroshi, go get me something else," Niou ordered Yagyuu. "Since Choutarou's drinking mine, now."

"Why don't you get it yourself?"

"It's my birthday."

"That excuse will only work for tonight." Yagyuu wandered off.

Yanagi and Niou were glaring at each other. Well, it was a glare from Yanagi's end; there was something weird in Niou's eyes, all of a sudden.

Yanagi stood, suddenly. "I'll be right back, he said."

That left Niou and Ohtori alone. Niou switched seats, so that he was closer to Ohtori, and smiled at him. Ohtori started to feel uncomfortable.

"Do you play tennis, Choutarou?"

"I used to."

"We should play tennis, sometime."

"Sure." Ohtori felt very warm. He really shouldn't have accepted the drink.

"You know, I really wouldn't mind doing more with you than dancing," Niou said. His tongue was making its way down Ohtori's neck. When the hell had he gotten that close?

While the sensation wasn't entirely unpleasant, Ohtori knew it had to stop.

"What about Hiroshi? I know you like making him jealous, but this is going too far."

"He doesn't have to know," Niou said. "No one has to know. This isn't about making anyone jealous, it's about lust. You know the word, don't you?"

"I--"

"Think of it as a birthday present."

It was so hard to protest Niou when he was being so convincing. It had been a long time since Ohtori's last fling, and it felt so good...Not to mention that with Niou, there would be no strings attached...

He liked Yanagi, but he could never love him --

So why not?

Ohtori was about to accept the offer, when a very angry-looking Yagyuu returned to the table. There was a really good reason not to, actually -- Yagyuu jealous was a very frightening thing, indeed.

However, Yagyuu did not direct his anger at Ohtori; instead, he grabbed Niou's arm, and dragged him out of the club. Ohtori watched them going, wondering just what the hell was going on tonight.

Yanagi returned, then; Ohtori felt suddenly guilty. Had he seen?

"It looked like you were enjoying yourself."

Yes, he had seen.

"I --"

"I've told you before that you shouldn't force yourself to be with me," Yanagi said.

"I'm not forcing myself --"

"You've been keeping your distance. I'm sure it has something to do with the past you won't talk about, but it's starting to make things difficult. If you don't care about me at all, then stop pretending. Masaharu would be happy to have you."

"Renji --" Ohtori didn't know what to say. What could he say? He had sworn not to care, for so many reasons; but Yanagi wanted more than that -- "I can't," he said.

"Fine. It was nice while it lasted," Yanagi said. He walked away, and Ohtori didn't try to stop him.

He went home much later, and much drunker; but he still didn't understand anything.

--

Ohtori wanted to call Yanagi and apologize, but every time he picked up the phone -- he set it back down again. He was sure that Yanagi wouldn't want to talk to him. After all, he'd really messed up.

It was his fault he was hurting, this time. It was his fault that he'd lost someone important to him, all because he'd been too afraid to trust Yanagi. It had been years since Shishido -- and he was still letting it affect him.

He'd been so stupid, and now it was too late to fix it.

Why had he almost given in to Niou? Just because it felt good; just because it would have been "safer". What the hell did any of that matter? He should have known it would turn out like this, and should have known how much it would hurt.

He'd tried to hard not to care, but of course he'd failed. He always had so much fun while he was out with Yanagi; always enjoyed the other's company. Now that he was gone, he realized that Yanagi had become a part of his life -- a very important part. What would he do without him?

--

Ohtori had fallen asleep on the couch. He woke with a start when he heard the doorbell ring; who could it be at this hour?

After glancing at the clock, he realized that it was only mid-afternoon -- or maybe it was the next afternoon. Damn it, he was starting to fall back into the habit of not going to work...

He swung the door open, prepared to tell whoever it was to get lost -- and saw Yanagi standing there.

"Why?" he asked. It was all he could think of. Why was Yanagi there? He had been so sure that he would never see him again.

"I was angry the other night, but I overreacted," Yanagi said. "I realize that Masaharu is very tempting. I never bothered to listen to your side of it."

"Come in," Ohtori said. This was his chance -- he needed to take it, no matter how much it frightened him; no matter how it would turn out.

They sat in silence for a while. Yanagi was waiting for him to speak, but Ohtori wasn't really sure of what to say.

"I almost said yes. It would have been easier. I've been afraid to trust people for years, because of something that happened in high school."

"What happened?"

"I was in love with my sempai, my best friend. I never told him about it, I never told him I was gay, either. When I started high school, he told me that he didn't want to be my friend anymore because he was tired of people talking about us. He didn't want anyone to think he was gay."

"What did you do?"

"I punched him, then I never spoke to him again. It hurt, though. I didn't want to have to go through that again."

"I wish you'd told me this before," Yanagi said. "I wouldn't have been so angry with you, if I'd known."

"You had every right to be angry with me."

"Of course I did." Yanagi laughed at the expression on Ohtori's face. "I'm not angry anymore, though. I just want you to promise me one thing."

"What's that?"

"That you won't let Masaharu touch you. I want you for myself," Yanagi said. "He can find someone else to seduce."

"Why does he do that?"

"I really have no idea. He's much different than he used to be. Everyone changes, but I think he changed for the worse. I should introduce you to some of my other old school friends, you might like them."

"That would be nice."

"Choutarou. Look at me." Yanagi lifted Ohtori's chin. "I won't hurt you. If I do, I give you permission to kill me, all right?"

Ohtori knew that Yanagi really meant that. Why had he ever felt that he couldn't trust him?

"All right," he said. "And I promise."

"Good. Next time Masaharu tries anything, I'm going to punch him."

"Why didn't you before?"

"Because I thought you liked it," Yanagi said.

"I would have liked it more if it was you." Ohtori really hadn't meant to say it aloud, but the smile that tugged at Yanagi's lips really was worth seeing, and the kiss that followed was definitely worth a few embarrassing words.

And maybe the years that followed would be worth a little heartbreak, once in a while.




The End

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